Clunky sentences? Read that stuff out loud. Writer’s Diary: 2

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The last thing I do before moving on to the next chapter to edit, is read that thing out loud — shut the door and say it loud! — It’s a piece of advice people give you but you never do, right? I started doing it b/c the couple of times I’ve had to record a short story for radio and podcasts, I found that in the act of doing so I picked up so many clunky phrases or yucky sentences. And it’s especially helpful if you’re a fan of sentences that have rhythm and feel good and are nice to listen to. After reading my stories for said radio/podcast I actually changed a lot of words and had to resubmit the written story. If you imagine, while reading, that it is for radio and therefore u need to pronounce clearly, it really hones in on those ugly words – and you never know when, in the future, you might have to read that out loud to someone, so best fix that shit now.

Chat about meta-fiction novels

At Swim-two-birds
At Swim-two-birds

— at its simplest and most basic, meta-fiction is fiction, about fiction —

(See below for an incomplete list of elements that make a work meta-fiction)

One of my greatest loves is a good ol’ meta-fiction novel. Meta-fiction refers to fictional works that draw attention to the fact that they are a work of fiction.

Wikipedia’s definition: ‘Metafiction is a form of fiction in which the text – either directly or through the characters within – is ‘aware’ that it is a form of fiction.’

I’ve begun a list of female meta-fiction authors here, as mentors for my own writing.

My favourite meta-fictional work, At-Swim-Two-Birds, is a meta-fiction-feast – a story within a story within a story within a story within a story. And my favourite section of AS-T-B has the characters of one story give the writer a good beating. It’s not so much the thrashing I love, but that the characters take revenge on the author. It’s a scenario that I’d love to include in my own novel one day.

And I couldn’t help myself, I’ve written my own little meta-fictional work, but it doesn’t have an author beating. At present it’s doing the rounds of agents, so wish it luck will you? The main character, a homeless man, (male mental health is a theme that runs through all my books to date)  befriends a woman who is a struggling author. She steals his life story to use as a novel, and as the story unfolds, it becomes apparent this story is the novel itself.

Over the years I’ve read a few meta-fictional works that I’ll list elsewhere on this blog. I’m gradually adding the notes that I made at the time of reading, not reviews of the books, but simple notes that I made with no intention of blogging – at the time there was no such thing as blogging, let alone an internet.

As a bit of a guide to understanding meta-fiction Wikipedia lists these common meta-fictive devices in literature:

  • A story about a writer who creates a story
  • A story that features itself (as a narrative or as a physical object) as its own prop or MacGuffin
  • A story containing another work of fiction within itself
  • A story addressing the specific conventions of story, such as title, character conventions, paragraphing or plots
  • A novel where the narrator intentionally exposes him or herself as the author of the story
  • A book in which the book itself seeks interaction with the reader
  • A story in which the readers of the story itself force the author to change the story
  • Narrative footnotes, which continue the story while commenting on it
  • A story in which the characters are aware that they are in a story
  • A story in which the characters make reference to the author or his previous work

A related genre is the self-reflexive novel: a fictional work in which the author refers to themselves in the work, and/or refers to the work itself.

And then there is the anti-novel which is better described as a more experimental work. Dictionary.com defines anti-novel as, ‘a literary work in which the author rejects the use of traditional elements of novel structure, especially in regard to development of plot and character.’ Wikipedia defines the anti-novel as, ‘any experimental work of fiction that avoids the familiar conventions of the novel, and instead establishes its own conventions.’

Of course, a novel can be one or all of the above, makes definitions complicated, doesn’t it.

Writer’s Diary: 1

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(Apologies for the repost, I’m changing my theme and rearranging my blog.)

THE process an author goes through is detailed and individual. In Writer’s Diary I will dip in and note what it is that I do to create my current novel. The posts will be short and to the point, and, on the topic of writing, only. I hope it is useful to both you and me!

I’m currently working my way through a draft of ABSENCE. It’s something like the fifth or sixth draft. (when I think about it, it’s a lot more than that!) As I deleted approximately 50,000w in the last draft the MS was down to about 40k, but the essence of the story is now very clear and tight. So now I’m working my way through and expanding every idea in each chapter. I’m also working backward from C60 back to C1 so that I give every attention to the individual chapters rather than getting lost in the entire story. It’s now back up to just over 63k and I’m at C28.

The more you know…The Author-Narrator-Character Merge

 

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I’m in my happy place when I’m with a good book on writerly devices, and I love to experiment with what I have learnt and attempt to incorporate that into whatever I’m working on, just for the fun of it, but there is a downside to this, I can’t unknow things that I have learnt. I can’t write and ignore great advice, can I?

I recently read The Author-Narrator-Character Merge: Why Many First-Time Novelists Wind Up With Flat, Uninteresting Protagonists, an essay by Frederick Reiken. I definitely don’t feel like I have an uninteresting protagonist in The Neighbour, after all, people either love him or hate him, no in between, but it’s an element of writing that I don’t think I have thought about.

Reiken states that a writer will often fail to distinguish between, and keep separate, the author, the narrator, and the protagonist.

Understanding this separation is easier with first person narrative, there is the author, there is the narrator who is a character separate from the author, and there are characters in the story. In regard to third person narratives it becomes more complex. Reiken refers to psychic distance between a narrator and character- an idea put forward first by John Gardener. The division between author, narrator, and character is much more complex and there you get more into an author’s own style and the varying degrees of psychic distance, the idea of which requires more space and thought than I can dedicate here, but I urge you to seek out this article and give it a close read. Perhaps I might tease it out in another post soon.

I’m pleased to say (if you’ve read The Neighbour you’ll understand why I’m pleased :)) that I went to great lengths, many many drafts, to create a character that had nothing of me, the author, in him and the style is more what is called Free Indirect Discourse. Free Indirect Discourse has the narrator reporting the thoughts and dialogue of the character. The narrator reports all that the character does, sees and feels almost as if the narrator is the character, except she is still that third person. I feel this style gives the reader more access to the thoughts and feelings of the character and is a more engaging read.

If you are a fan of writing this way you are in good company, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen were all fans of Free Indirect Discourse. But this idea of the Author-Narrator-Character Merge is an element of writing that will forever be on my mind when I’m writing, I can’t unknow it!

Australian Women Writers Reading Challenge, 2015 – all in the past.

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It’s wrap up time for my Australian Women Writers Reading Challenge reading experience for 2015, for me that means time to announce yet again what a slow reader I am. MY NAME IS JULIE AND I AM A SLOW READER. My stated plan was to read 4 books by Australian women and review at least 3.

The books that I did read where RISK by Fleur Ferris, a fast-paced, relevant YA novel about a girl who finds danger on the internet. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Fleur at her launch of RISK in July. I read THE STRAYS by Emily Bitto,  a beautiful Stella Prize winning Literary novel which I read as part of my planning to share a panel with Emily at the Queenscliff Lit festival in May. And I read Elizabeth Lhuede’s Debut Novel, SNOWY RIVER MAN, a Romance novel written under the pen name, Lizzy Chandler, a  book with lovely  depictions of the Australian landscape written around a mystery type story. I said I would read MEDEA’S CURSE by Anne Buist, but even though it is a worthy work, I found that me being a writer that delves in psychological drama and Anne being a psychiatrist I unfairly expected more psych drama and that isn’t the type of book it is, so put it down.

Other readings this year  were Truman Capote’s Summer Crossing (not AU), Janette Winterson’s Written on the Body (not AU), some of the Australian novel by Maxine Beneba Clarke, Foreign Soil, which has won many awards, The Infinity Pool (not AU) which is a great summer holiday read, engaging but not too demanding, so you can relax on the beach and doze between reads, The Marquise of O by Heinrich von Kleist (notAU) written in 1808, a drama involving a mysterious rape, which I promised to review for someone but haven’t, YET, and The spring edition of Tincture Journal which features many Australian writers.

This year I also read books on writing. I’m currently reading A KITE IN THE WIND which has an excellent essay first up on the separation of author, narrator and character (NOT AU)

That’s it! bring on 2016! 2016 book resolution: I WILL READ BETTER!

 

 

Post from march 2015:

I’m a little bit slow to get my blog post of intended reads down this year, it’s already coming up to Easter, so here we go! I’m planning the Stella level ( read 4 – review at least 3 ). I’m being conservative, but I know I’ll read more, I’m cheating – if I set my sights on a low level I know I won’t fail!

Here are my four intended reads of women writers for this year:

* RISK by Fleur Ferris (YA) (Fleur is an author buddy of mine, so I’m excited about this one)

* MEDEA’S CURSE (PSYCH THRILLER) by Anne Buist (I was appearing with Anne at Queenscliffe Lit fest so picked this one up quick smart, but now instead of Anne, I’m appearing with the next lady on my list –)

* THE STRAYS by Emily Bitto (LIT FIC) (The Strays has been shortlisted for this years Stella Prize)

* SNOWY RIVER MAN (ROMANCE) by Lizzy Chandler ( also known as Elizabeth Lhuede, founder of the Australian Women Writers Challenge)

I’ll also be heading back to some favourite women writers this year, with a little bit of Doris lessing, no, not Australian, but a favourite, and a bit of Elizabeth Jolley. I stopped reading Jolley when she passed away a few years ago because I didn’t ever want to find myself in the position of not ever having another Jolley to read, but there are so many that I’ll have forgotten them by the time I come back to them again, and anyway, there’s a finite number of books you can read in your lifetime so might as well make them good ones!

Happy Reading!

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